Belfast Telegraph

Zoo's farewell party for gorilla

Gorillas at a zoo have thrown a goodbye party for one of their troop, who is off to start a new family.

Namoki was born at Bristol Zoo Gardens nine years ago and is now mature enough to have babies of her own.

The western lowland gorilla is related to the males at the zoo, so must move away and be introduced to another family.

Her departure was celebrated with a party, with the gorillas handed cardboard moving boxes full of their favourite foods.

Namoki concentrated on eating the vegetables from her box, while younger half-brother Kukena, three, played with his.

She will leave for Northern Ireland on October 14, joined by Lynsey Bugg, assistant curator of mammals at the zoo.

Ms Bugg, who has known Namoki since she was born, will help the gorilla settle into her new home at Belfast Zoo.

"This is a very exciting time for Namoki, who is about to embrace the next chapter of her life as an adult gorilla," she said.

"The process of introducing Namoki to another group of gorillas will be a sensitive one and the Belfast Zoo keepers and I will be keeping a close eye on her and monitoring her interaction with the rest of the group."

Namoki was born at Bristol Zoo in 2005 and is the daughter of Romina and 32-stone silverback Jock.

"Namoki worked out how to get her own way with Jock from a very young age," Ms Bugg added.

"If she adopts the same charm with the male gorilla at Belfast Zoo, I have no doubt she'll be very popular.

"Namoki looks up to the other female gorillas in the group and has hopefully developed a sense of how to be an adult female gorilla and how to raise a family."

There are as few as between 90,000 and 110,000 western lowland gorillas in the wild, with many killed for the "bush meat" trade.

The Ebola virus is also causing problems for the remaining populations.

Over the past 20 to 25 years, the number of gorillas has decreased by more than 60%.

Visitors to Bristol Zoo are asked to share their memories of Namoki and will be able to wave her off until October 13.

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